Through the palm trees, Barney noticed a sail floating on the horizon. “Sarah, do my eyes deceive me or is there a ship moving toward us?” The triangle was the tip of a magnificent craft. A man sat in a chair at the stern working the sails with two ropes to harness the wind. The sleek vessel cut through the sand like butter as tiny wheels rolled the ship across the desert. Magical wind blew with tremendous force when the magician flourished his wand.

            Barney and Sarah stood rooted to the spot, having no way to defend themselves and being too slow to run.

The ship pulled alongside and the navigator stood out of his seat.

“Hello travelers, can I give you a lift?” The man looked easy to trust, despite being somewhat scruffy around the face and dressed in strange clothing. He had a tall woodsman’s hat on his head with a feather in it. The hat was lincoln green and his buckskins gave him a rustic appearance. He wore red slippers similar to the type worn by Arab nomads.

“Thank you for the kind offer; we’ve never seen a ship of the desert like yours before. Have you sailed from far away?” Sarah asked.

The young magician was tall and wiry. “My name is Rucksack and I’ve traveled from the Mint Village beneath the Albodourous Mountains.”

Barney looked at Rucksack carefully. The magician was almost identical to the one who tied them up earlier.

            Sarah decided it was safe to trust him. There was something about his eyes… “Barney and I have already met your brother.”

            “I’m amazed he left you alive,” Rucksack said. He pulled a beautiful sword from a sheath around his waist. “Conundrum told me the tale of the Serpentine Sword; I never knew he had it. How my Godfather came by this heirloom is still a mystery; it belonged to the Great Hunter.” Rucksack showed the sword to them. It had a silver snake’s head at the hilt with two ruby eyes. Golden scales decorated the handle, interspersed with diamonds. At the hilt, the blade was wide and jagged. The teeth were not the result of wear, but forged with intention.

“Legend foretells the Serpentine Sword is meant to unlock a house of keys on Volcano Island. That’s where I am headed; this sword will point me in the right direction. I assume you haven’t seen the inscription on the blade,” Rucksack remarked.

Sure enough, there were lines of latitude and longitude scrolled across the steel. They were not lines of impurity, but created from magical fire. Barney gaze carefully at the blade.

It was difficult to see because his shadow kept getting in the way. “If only I had some parchment and ink to copy with,” murmured Sarah.

“You needn’t worry,” replied Rucksack. “I have something we can write with in my cabin, but first I will cut your bonds.” He slashed the ropes with the sword as easily as if it had been a pair of scissors.

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